In Brazil, one of Bolsonaro’s sons is targeted by an investigation into alleged political spying

Police are investigating an ‘organized crime’ group that operated within the intelligence agency during Bolsonaro’s term, which ended in Dec. 2022

Carlos Bolsonaro
Former President Jair Bolsonaro of the Liberal Party (PL) and his son Carlos Bolsonaro attend a Presidential Debate ahead of the national election, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, September 29, 2022.RICARDO MORAES (REUTERS)

Brazil’s federal police on Monday searched the homes and office of Carlos Bolsonaro, the son of former President Jair Bolsonaro and a Rio de Janeiro city councilman, an officer with knowledge of the operation told The Associated Press.

The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to comment publicly about the case.

Police said in a statement that they conducted nine searches Monday as part of a broader investigation into the nation’s intelligence agency and alleged spying on political opponents during Bolsonaro’s term, which ended in Dec. 2022.

Carlos Bolsonaro’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the AP. By midday local time, Bolsonaro had not commented publicly on the search, and neither have his two brothers who are also in politics, nor his father.

Monday’s operation comes days after federal police searched the office and home of the former chief of Brazil’s intelligence agency under Bolsonaro, Alexandre Ramagem, and a dozen other people.

Police statements and Supreme Court documents show police are investigating an “organized crime” group that operated within the intelligence agency, known by its Portuguese acronym ABIN, during Bolsonaro’s term. The group allegedly used the agency’s tools and services for political use and personal gain.

The group is also suspected of seeking to interfere with ongoing police investigations, some of which targeted or involved two of Bolsonaro’s other sons, Jair Renan and Flávio, a sitting senator.

Police suspect ABIN under Ramagem used a software known as FirstMile, developed by Israeli company Cognyte, “to monitor targets and public authorities ... with the aim of creating false narratives,” according to Supreme Court documents.

Monday’s police statement said the latest operation sought to advance the political side of the investigation, to “identify the main recipients and beneficiaries of illegally produced information.”

Sunday night, Jair Bolsonaro conducted a two and a half-hour long live broadcast on social media, along with three of his sons, including Carlos. The broadcast was done from a house in the seaside city of Angra dos Reis.

In the video, the Bolsonaros defended Ramagem and criticized the investigation, with the former president calling the idea of a parallel intelligence unit “fantastical.”

Local outlets including O Globo, a leading daily, have reported on Ramagem’s ties with the Bolsonaro family since the presidential campaign of 2018. Then a federal police officer, Ramagem served as one of Jair Bolsonaro’s security coordinators, O Globo reported.

In one photo widely published in local media, he appears all smiles at a 2018-2019 New Year’s Eve party alongside Carlos Bolsonaro and their then partners.

Bolsonaro appointed Ramagem to lead ABIN in May 2019. The right-wing leader had previously appointed him to be federal police chief, but quickly yielded to growing criticism around the nomination due to the fact that Ramagem was widely seen as too close to the president’s family, and that he might give members preferential treatment.

In a March 2020 TV interview, Gustavo Bebianno, who had acted as one of the former president’s key aides and as a Cabinet minister before being fired, said Carlos had spoken to him about creating a parallel intelligence unit within the agency.

“One fine day, Carlos appears to me with the name of a federal detective and three agents who would form a parallel ABIN, because he didn’t trust ABIN,” Bebianno told TV program Roda Viva shortly before his death. “We advised the president not to do anything of the sorts ... After I left, I don’t know if this was implemented or not.”

O Globo, which is based in Rio, reported that law enforcement had seized a computer that belonged to ABIN in one of the addresses covered by the warrants. The agency’s press department told The AP in an email it was investigating the claim.

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